Jack Garton

Caravan scares up a show for all seasons

The farm theatre in the wilds of Spallumcheen opens its season with the Walk of Terror, and a performance by Jack Garton's Demon Squadron.

Anita Rochon has gone into the woods, under full and half moons, where horses neigh nearby and creepy things lurk.

The co-founder/artistic director of Vancouver’s The Chop Theatre is no stranger to the macabre goings on that occur at Caravan Farm Theatre this time of year.

For the past three years, she has trekked her way to the outdoor theatre in Spallumcheen to be a part of Caravan’s themed theatrical Halloween event, the Walk of Terror, and this year is no exception.

However, this time Rochon is staying on at the farm a bit longer, as she steps in as the theatre’s temporary artistic director while full-time AD Courtenay Dobbie plays mommy to her new daughter. (Dobbie will be back to direct Caravan’s 2015 summer production, The Night’s Mare.)

“I am enjoying being around the horses and the amazing people that come through here,” said Rochon, who was also at the farm last winter to direct Caravan’s sleigh-ride production, Little Brother, Little Sister.

“This is such a welcoming community… I even joined the gym (in Armstrong) and someone asked if I was working at Caravan and seemed to know I was from Vancouver. We must stand out around here.”

Rochon isn’t the only out-of-towner who  comes to these parts to create the kind of theatrical experiences that most city dwellers rarely get to see.

Besides being a working horse ranch (the farm is home to four pairs of Clydesdales, who are trained to not only pull sleigh-loads of people during winter shows, but also serve as extras and set and prop handlers for the summer productions), it is also a breeding ground for national theatrical talent.

That will be seen when Caravan goes the extra mile this year to present four productions – one for each of the seasons.

“The theatre is so land-based in embracing all the seasons, so this year we thought we’d do a spring show,” said Rochon, who is directing the original piece, In Like A Lion, which will have a four-date run in May.

“It’s based on Persephone and her descent into Hades and the complicated relationship she has with her mother, which fits as it will be done over the Mother’s Day weekend,” said Rochon.

But first, Rochon will hand over the directing reigns to Vancouver’s Rachel Peake, who is now just mounting a new opera (Stickboy), with libretto written by spoken word artist Shane Koyczan, with Vancouver Opera.

Peake will be at Caravan this winter to stage the sleigh-ride production The Contest of the Winds, written by Shuswap-based playwright/musician Linz Kenyon, whose script is based on an Interior Salish (Secwepemc) legend.

The play will feature design by Caravan veteran Catherine Hahn, who created the incredible puppets and masks for last year’s summer show, The Tragical Comedy of Punch and Judy.

“We’ve actually started the preparations for the winter show in conjunction with the Halloween show,” said Rochon.

Speaking of the Walk of Terror, joining Rochon this year to create the mobile theatrical journey through the woods are Toronto artists Georgina Beaty, who has not only acted in productions around Canada, including at Caravan (she played Jenny in The Notorious Right Robert and his Robber Bride), but also writes and directs, and Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, a director and actor who has appeared on stage and was on TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation.

They join Caravan prop designer Scott Crocker and Rochon’s Chop Theatre co-founder Emelia Symington Fedy in creating a hair-raising spectacle based on the 1940s’ American radio series The Whistler.

Described as a thriller/suspense series, where people who committed criminal acts were typically undone either by an overlooked but important detail or by their own stupidity, The Whistler would say that “these things happen because evil is all around you,” said Rochon.

“We used this period as the esthetic on the walk with the raw nature and the ‘30-’40s look, red lipstick… and a twisted sense of humour. It’s based on film noir, but is a bit different. We switch it up.”

Fitting into that theme is musician Jack Garton, of Maria in the Shower fame, who is bringing his new squeezebox dance party, the Demon Squadron, to perform in Caravan’s open-air timber frame barn right after the Walk of Terror ends.

Described as howling blues-dub sorcerers, who irreverently mix musical styles and approaches, the Vancouver/ Galiano Island-based trio consists of drummer Amrit Basi (Blackberry Wood), bassist Brendon Hartley (also of Maria in the Shower) and Garton on accordion, trumpet and voice.

“We felt so lucky to have a band that fits right into the theme,” said Rochon.

The Walk of Terror kicks off Caravan’s 37th season Halloween night. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. and the walk goes from 7 to 8 p.m. Jack Garton and the Demon Squadron take the stage at 8 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for best costume. Tickets are $19/adult in advance and $24 at the gate. Children 12 and under are $6. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.

More information is available at www.caravanfarmtheartre.com

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